With the release of “V for Vendetta” imminent, journalists gathered for a round-table discussion of the film with star Natalie Portman, director James McTiegue, producer Joel Silver, and the artist of the original graphic novel, David Lloyd.
The primary focus, of course, was on the star in the room, namely Portman herself. Petite and poised, professional and amiable with a self-deprecating laugh, she was asked about whether having her head shaved was traumatic at all. “It really wasn’t for me personally,” she said. “I was playing the character. For her, it is traumatic, but for me, I chose to do it. I try not to have too many personal memories of it, and I let it grow out again immediately, because it takes a long time.”
Ironically, being bald made her even more recognizable, because without hair people, actually stopped to look at her more closely.
Even though hers is the biggest name in the cast, Portman didn’t see this is a star vehicle, since she was playing with an ensemble, and especially opposite Hugo Weaving, whom she praises as an incredible actor.
Director James McTiegue was also effusive in his praise for Weaving: “He always brings something to his roles, whether in “Lord of the Rings” or “The Matrix”. He brought a humanity to the mask. He has a fantastic physicality, and he’s trained in Greek Theater and Noh Theater, so he understood the use of the mask.”
“And a lot of people played V” added Silver. “Stuntmen, a martial artist, a knife expert for the fight scenes.”
One reporter asked about Alan Moore’s refusal to support the movie of the acclaimed graphic novel he wrote, going so far as to asking for his name to be removed from the credits.
Silver said that while he regretted this, he understood Moore’s philosophy.
“He had also just been involved in a lawsuit over “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen”, and that was very unattractive. He just didn’t want to be part of it. We would’ve loved him to be involved with it. We only changed one or two things, otherwise we tried to be as faithful to the book as we could.”
The filmmakers were asked about their feelings about the film as a cautionary tale, and how some of it seemed prophetic in light of the Tube bombings in London in July 2005 when the film was still in production.
“Yes, that’s frightening,” said Portman. “But it’s something we see a lot now, on television in living color. The movie is open to many layers of interpretation. It’s not a hero who’s purely good, because he’s not always likeable and he does things you don’t always condone.”
And being born in Israel is one of the reasons she agreed to take the role of Evey Hammond.
“Terrorism has been part of my dialogue since a very young age, since we lived with it everyday. I read Menachem Begin’s book about his time in prison. He was called a terrorist. The movie asks questions about what drives people to terrorism. Is violence justified? When do we say ‘enough’ and revolt? It’s part of my wanting to understand it.”
Given the political hot-buttons the movie pushes, it was inevitable that someone would ask the makers about whether they felt the film would turn off the red states.
“You just go with the material,” said McTiegue. “The book was written twenty-five years ago. You just make the best movie you can, and you can’t push everyone to the movie. You bring your own baggage into the movie when you see it. Certainly, things need to be addressed. You stay true to the source material.”
McTiegue added that the studio never asked for the film to be watered down or made more moderate in its politics. They understood the film was about context.
“It’s the classic story about one man against dictatorship,” said Lloyd. “It’s about the right of the individual to be individual, the right not to be cowed into subservience. Every man is behind the mask. V is an idea.”
Asked to comment on other films about actual events, like Oliver Stone’s movie about the World Trader Center bombing on 9/11 or Paul Greengrass’ depiction of the events that occurred on Flight 93, both currently in production, McTiegue commented that unlike those, “V for Vendetta” is entirely fictional and an allegory, but any film that tries to depict an historical event is trying to understand and come to terms with it, and has his support.
The possible impact of the movie prompted one reporter to ask the filmmakers about the perception of movies in society.
“Movies have a social function,” said Portman. “It’s two hours where people leave their consciousness at home to see what other people’s lives and feeling are like. Sure, there’s a level of escapism to it, but the best thing is to get into other people’s hearts and minds and understand them.”
She cited her favorite films as Terence Malick’s “Days of Heaven” and Austrian director Michael Haneke’s “Code Unknown”.
“‘Wedding Crashers’ was my favorite movie of last year,” she added. “It may not have been that deep, but it said something and made me laugh. My job as an actress is to imagine other people’s lives. That’s the most human thing you could hope to practice.”
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